By Diego Bustamante
Students line up every semester to apply for Financial Aid and although it’s a long process, many students finish without comprehending the steps involved.
While some apply and go through the process smoothly, others don’t understand it and either prolong it or leave with many questions in there heads. There are many student assistance programs available that are not taken advantage of. The underlying reason is that many don’t even know that they are eligible for aid.
“Every student files FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) regardless of the college the student is in,” Financial Aid Campus Director Katie Briscoe Baum said. “In addition to Grants, New York State Residents apply for TAP (Tuition Assistance Program). Everyone qualifies for something.”
Many forms of financial assistance for students comes in grants, sholarships, loans, work-study, tax credits, and other special programs. Of the grants there are the Federal Pell, NYS TAP, Federal Supplement Education Opportunity, College, NYS Aid for Part-time Study, of the scholarships, Leaders of Tomorrow, Academic Excellence, college, of the loans, Federal Stanford (subsidized and unsubsidized), Federal Plus, Alternate (private), and of the work-study there is the Federal College program. Additionally, there are tax credits and other special programs.
“There has been no reduction in TAP,” Baum said. “There has been an expansion of PELL. The only reduction that has been made has been to the work-study program.”
There are students who will wonder why reimbursement is taking so long to kick in for them. Some will wonder why the full approved amount of aid is being denied upon further evaluation of their aid. Others may be thinking if they are eligible for anything else.
“I was supposed to get $2,650 but I ended up receiving $1,520 and when I went down to the Financial Aid office I was basically told that the money technically isn‘t mine,” Accounting Major Cory Mahoney said. “My question is why would they put it down as our reward if it isn’t really ours. Most students are just happy to get a check in the mail and don’t really pay attention to their Financial Aid like they should be because if you don’t keep record they’ll find some way to lower it.”
There are students who have completed the Financial Aid process numerous times and still have questions. The campus will be holding Financial Aid workshops in the Mildred Green Lounge in the Babylon Student Center May 17 from 12 noon to 1 p.m. and May 20 from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. These workshops will be for those who want to learn what errors not to make and also ask professionals questions.
“At bill time some students may come to Financial Aid and not see the full amount,” Baum said. “This is because the student may have been approved by the state but also by law if the school finds the student not to be taking the required credits, then the student will be de-certified. For example the school determines if the student meets the income criteria but not the educational criteria or if a student is repeating a class. Additionally, the aid process may get slowed down if a student doesn‘t fill out the application correctly, if the application processor finds inconsistencies in the application, as well the number of students applying because last year this campus saw an increase of 27% in FAFSA enrollment.”
Most of the students find the process endearing. Others could care less as long as they get help. There were students have positive feedback about the applying for financial assistance.
“You have to wait for it but it’s a easy and straight-forward process,” Auto Technician Major Terrence Barrientos said. “It’s been helping me out with school. It’s not that difficult because all you really have to do is go to school.”
The majority of the students agree that the Financial Aid Office does what needs to get done. The complaints from students is in organization although it should be noted that a contributing factor to the chaos is possibly SCCC’s leniency for late registration that four year schools are more strict with. The opinions of some of the students is that both the “online” and “on the line” steps are tedious.
“I think it could be handled better because it’s just crazy how I had to wait on a line for an hour just to ask one question,” Liberal Arts Major Justin Okley said. “The online forms are a bit excessive. My experience with the whole process was good but I just think they need to organize better.”
Most of the students agree that others attending college should inform themselves more about student financial assistance. While there are some students who find more favor for the Financial Aid process than others, they and the faculty share the agreement that students should take the most advantage of the assistance that is out there. The Financial Aid Department at Suffolk Community College encourages students to apply for assistance they haven’t already and to attend the workshops, if needed.
“I encourage more and more people to file because there are too many people who don’t complete the process due to how intimidating it is,” Baum said. “File even if you don’t think you need it. Don’t miss the opportunity because more students may actually qualify due to the current conditions of the economy.”